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Arkansas court overturns murder conviction, orders 4th trial

December 18, 2020 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed a Texarkana man’s murder conviction after finding jurors were improperly exposed to political campaigning by the lead prosecutor.

The unanimous ruling on Thursday overturned Marvin Arrell Stanton’s conviction and sentence. Stanton was sentenced to life plus 15 years at the end of his third trial for fatally shooting a 22-year-old after a fight over a parking spot in 2015.

His first conviction was tossed out by an appellate court because of testimony during the guilt or innocence phase of that trial. The second jury was sent home after a mistrial was declared. In the third attempt, after the jury voted to convict Stanton of first-degree murder and sentenced him to life in prison. His attorney, Jeff Rosenzweig, appealed.

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The high court ordered a fourth trial and also excoriated the conduct of the prosecutor, Stephanie Potter Barrett, ruling she “shattered” the perception of justice by collecting signatures for her judicial campaign from members of the jury pool.

Barrett responded with a statement disputing the facts presented in the majority opinion, and pointed to her aunt as the source of the juror signatures. She had previously told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that she was simply following the lead of several local judges who were also collecting signatures that day at the Miller County Courthouse.

Barrett will continue to serve as the prosecutor in Miller County until he is sworn into the Court of Appeals next month. She said her office “absolutely” will seek to retry Stanton for Hamilton’s death.

Stanton meanwhile remains imprisoned at the Arkansas Department of Corrections’ Varner Unit.